‘I Love You Just The Way You Are’

Dec 12, 2012 at 6:00 am

Not just No. 1 in Kentucky, not just No. 1 in the Midwest or the South; Louisville, Ky. — our home — was elected the No. 1 travel destination in the United States of America. No. 1 in the entire damn country.

Took long enough.

Lists like the one Lonely Planet published last week are, inherently, a little goofy, and while I consider myself a Colonel-Class Booster for the City of Louisville, I was admittedly surprised that the River City got a No. 1 berth. Yes, it’s nice, but it’s also sort of weird.

“Could it be that the new Portland is in … Kentucky?” Lonely Planet asks. My expert, English-major eye sees two things operating in this sentence. What’s implied by the incorrect use of an ellipsis is a note of surprise that someplace as cool as Portland, Ore., should be found in, of all places, (gasp) Kentucky. We’re used to this routine and so it comes as no surprise, but for good measure and team morale, let me say, on behalf of the commonwealth, Up Yours, Buddy.

Secondly, comparing Louisville to Portland (or anyplace else) to begin with is also a luckless little misstep as it needles what I think is a sensitive spot in this town. It is this type of mostly harmless comparison that leads to an unfortunate, persistent tic around here, one I’ve never understood. There’s an underlying, unspoken drive in this town to measure up to other metropolitan areas that appear more prestigious. Louisville, as an organism, seems to crave approval from the outside.

Well, we got it. There it is. Lonely Planet. No. 1. Can we stop seeking the approbation of others now? Can we be happy to live in the city we already love? And most importantly, can we please stop talking about this damnable NBA team?

This issue perennially rears its ugly head, and unfortunately, I fear it’s closer than ever. I can feel the hot rancid breath of some cut-rate, dip-shit franchise on my neck as I type these lines. Send help.

It’s clear that a sober discussion is required, and I suggest a moment of collective, serious Metro-introspection. Please place your cassette copy of Billy Joel’s “I Love You Just the Way You Are” in the tape deck. Light a candle. Sit in a warm, comfortable room. Listen, really listen, to that sax-a-ma-phone. Meditate on these simple, important questions:

What do we want to be as a city?

(Don’t go changing to try and please me/You never let me down before)

Does Louisville need an NBA team to become that city?

(Don’t imagine you’re too familiar/And I don’t see you anymore)

As a world-class city that has long recognized itself as such, do we have the collective fortitude to reject as inherently ridiculous the type of logic that somehow places us in competition with, say, Indianapolis or Memphis?

(I said I love you, and that’s forever/And this I promise from the heart)

Don’t we already have a world-class basketball program known as the University of Louisville Fighting Cardinals?

(I could not love you any better/I love you just the way you are)

The notion that Louisville needs an NBA team to remain viable is absurd.

It might be the remainders of an adolescent, punk rock hangnail. It might be my willful ignorance of municipal finance and city planning. On the other hand, I might be right: An NBA team will not make Louisville a cooler place to live. On the contrary, it will only make it weaker.

There is a mysterious, unnamed property that pervades this town and makes it a wonderful place to live. We talk about “it” all the time. We speculate on why there’s such a dense population of creative talent, or how incredible it is to have a small town/big city atmosphere that operates fluidly. In addition to all of the easily identifiable elements that make Louisville amazing (location, infrastructure, temperament), there’s another thing, the special sauce, the magic that makes our home one of the best places in the world, with or without Lonely Planet’s approval.

Now take that concept of the mystery “it” that makes Louisville great, and hold it up next to a prospective NBA franchise imported from parts unknown. Are they made of the same material? Do they smell the same to you?

Me neither.